Fit moms guide to nutrition and training

by | May 8, 2022 | Mindsets, Nutrition

As a mom, you are in a unique position. You spend a lot of time and energy taking care of children, but what if you want to get fit, lose the extra weight after pregnancy, or maybe even train for a race?

You know that spending hours exercising and cooking is not possible.
 
I created this guide to cover the major issues moms have when trying to tone their bodies and get fit.

You will find out:

  • Not so obvious reasons moms have too much stress (and how to relieve it)
  • How to manage your time better
  • What nutrients you should pay attention to (and have the energy for your job, kids, and exercise)
  • How to exercise (and get the results you are looking for even if you don’t have dedicated time to work out)
  • If you are a man reading this, it will help you understand the woman’s perspective better (and possibly save your relationship)

There is so much more to a healthy lifestyle than just a good-looking body…

The fitness industry makes it seem that if you want to feel and look great, your life needs to revolve around training hard and eating well. That sets unrealistic expectations for everyone, but especially for working moms who want to tone their bodies and get fit.
 
Fortunately, you don’t need to exercise in a gym daily and eat the perfect meals all the time to get good results.

But you need to consider what you can achieve within your means. Every woman is different and therefore the results will be different.  Do not be fooled by fitness pictures in magazines and on the Internet.

But even if it is unrealistic for you to get shredded and keep it that way, many moms who start exercising and eating well notice a better-toned body, increased self-esteem and confidence, more energy throughout the day, and fewer cravings.
 
Aside from how your own body looks and feels, the way you move and eat affects your family:
  • The fertility decreases year by year, which is hugely affected by the lifestyle.
  • Kids learn mostly through observation and not from what you tell them.  Studies consistently show that dieting mothers pass down these behaviors to their daughters.
  • Obesity runs in families. Or rather sits. But so does a healthy lifestyle.
The best thing you can do to get pregnant, pass down good genes to your kids, and teach them healthy behaviors is to be healthy yourself.

The world without moms would crash and burn

The one word I would use to describe moms is resiliency. Women are natural caretakers. A mom’s workday does not usually end with work. After finishing the work, moms routinely grocery shop, clean the house, cook, and take care of children. Every day is like a marathon…
 
Compared to men:
  1. Women have less time
  2. The time they have is more likely to be spent multitasking.
 
Women also tend to care too much, which often results in neglecting themselves. In psychology, it goes by the name ‘unmitigated communion’.
 
Some examples of unmitigated communion include:
  • Fear and concern over what other people think
  • Having intrusive thoughts about other people’s problems for days after those problems have been revealed
  • Feeling responsible for fixing other people’s problems
  • Putting other people’s needs above their own, even neglecting their health
  • Always helping others, even when exhausted
  • Being exploitable—letting others take advantage, having a hard time saying no

When you take on more than you can handle, it leads to a stress cycle. You will never have time for yourself to rest, in which case all your efforts to tone your body and lose weight will be unsuccessful.

The stress cycle:

  1. You have little time and a lot of stress
  2. High stress and low recovery lead to worse recovery, food cravings, more frequent binge eating, and you skip workouts and activities that make you feel better.
  3. When stressed, you are more likely to reach for food or watch TV to relieve it. Exercise does not appeal to us as stress relieving.
  4. That leads to even less rest and more stress

If you don’t recharge, you will simply burn out. Schedule a time for yourself at least once a week, ideally every day. Exercising, gardening, and taking a walk are the best ways to relieve stress, recharge batteries, overcome cravings, and stay fit.

Eating as a fit mom can be problematic

“I am already busy preparing food for my kids and a husband! I can’t prepare meals just for me!”
 
This is the reality for most moms out there. But what if you did not need to cook separate meals for everyone?
 
Remember what we said a minute ago? Healthy and unhealthy eating habits run in the family.
 
The best way to take charge of your diet and help your family to be healthy is to be healthy yourself.  That means that what you cook for yourself should not be different from what your children or a husband eat.
 
But I get it.
 
Husbands are not always willing to eat salads and smoothies. I see that this problem often stems from the myth, that to lose weight you need to eat salads. Vegetables are not appealing to many men – they want their piece of meat.
 
Here is an important point. Salads are a healthy choice in anyone’s diet. But women typically prefer low protein foods, which do not support their health and body goals. Cook protein-rich meals and both you and your husband will be happy.
 
Here is what I found to work best for moms who cook for the whole family:
  • Cook ingredients instead of meals – prepare salad, source of protein, and cook grains. You might want tofu, salad, and rice for lunch but your husband and children want meat, rice, and a bit less salad. No problem! Every person can put on their plate what they want.
  • Batch-cook foods – you don’t need to cook every meal fresh. batch cook grains, beans, and sources of protein (tofu, legumes, meat, fish). I like to prepare them without flavoring them and then use different spices to further make my meals different.
  • Be the leader of change – Many of my mom clients noted that when they started cooking healthier, their kids and husbands jumped on the train eventually.
  • Involve your kids in meal preparation. Even the youngest kids can make overnight oats safely. More mature kids can even help you cook!
 

What about supplements?

There are many products on the market targeted toward women. We can often see collagen, protein powders for women, or creatine that will not cause water retention.
 
While there are a few specific nutrients that women should pay more attention to, they are not concentrated in the pink color of the supplement’s packaging, nor the title “for women”.
 
Here is what to focus on with your nutrition:
  • Protein -women tend to favor carbohydrate-rich foods and have relatively low protein intake.
  • Eat balanced meals. They will help you be satiated, prevent cravings, build muscle and lose body fat without starving yourself.
  • Iron – menstruating women lose iron in their blood and so they have higher needs for iron. Athletes and vegan athletes tend to have lower iron levels.
  • Omega 3, Magnesium, vit. D are common nutrient deficiencies and therefore worth paying attention to or supplementing

TIP

Soy contains quite a lot of protein, fiber, iron, and starch and even has a positive effect on female hormones, the prevention of cardiovascular disease, and it can also help with hot flushes during menopause.

I recommend tofu, which is also enriched with calcium and can be prepared in many ways due to its neutral taste.

Check these free recipe books that include soem of my favourite tofu recipes

Fit mom’s guide to exercise

Traditionally, women preferred sweaty and long cardio workouts. Adding more training is often not the option and so you need to be smart about the way you eat and exercise.
 
Moms often have enough physical activity in their life already even if the number of steps on their phone can argue otherwise. The number of steps is a good gauge of how active you are during the day, but it does not take into account activities during which you don’t take many steps, but you are active anyway. Washing dishes, cooking, and doing house chores might not add many steps to your daily step count, but that does not mean you are inactive.
 
Women typically want to get a toned body. That means losing some body fat and building muscle! Therefore I recommend focusing on the resistance training.  It will help you preserve and build bone mineral density, and muscle mass, feel strong and confident, and also keep your metabolism high.
 
Does that mean you can’t do cardio at all?
You can still enjoy your cardio but focus on lifting weights. Resistance training will help you look better, feel stronger, and feel badass!
 
Here are a few training tips:
  1. Focus on strength training. But any physical activity that you can do long-term is great. And you can even change it from month to month.
  2. If you can’t find 40 minutes for training, find 5-10 minutes blocks of time for training and activities throughout the day. For example, you can do a few sets of squats in a 10-minute block. You will be surprised how many benefits you can get from training often in these short sessions. (Find out more about micro-workouts)
  3. Stay away from women-targeted workouts. They focus on sweating and feeling the burn, but they are not effective!
  4. Involve your kids in exercise and activities if possible. Fit moms run, bike, and even work out with their kids of any age.
  5. If you can’t do it all by yourself, take turns. You can arrange times with your husband or another mother when they will take care of your child. You can then take turns.

Weight loss after pregnancy

Desire to look like you did before pregnancy in a few weeks and going on a strict diet may not be the best idea.
 
Women tend to lose weight during the breastfeeding period, but you can work on losing the extra weight without being on an aggressive diet. You need an adequate amount of energy to produce milk, and recover and repair tissues.
 
Tina Gorsek, an educator on female nutrition and physiology, noted that losing too much weight soon after pregnancy can lead to a hypoestrogenic state that lasts longer than it should.
  • Naturally, women will not get their periods for a few months after giving birth. But some women report missing periods for longer than that.
  • After pregnancy, a woman’s body is at risk of bone density loss due to hormones and breastfeeding. Hormonal imbalances can last up to 6 months, and normalize between 6-12 months.
  • During breastfeeding, calcium and energy needs are higher. If you don’t get enough calcium from food, your body will use the calcium from your bones. Some research noted that women lose about 4-6% of bone mineral density during the first six months of lactation. But exercise can slow down bone loss during the lactation period.

Choose your priorities and don’t rush weight loss after pregnancy.

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Resources

Domínguez-López I, Yago-Aragón M, Salas-Huetos A, Tresserra-Rimbau A, Hurtado-Barroso S. Effects of Dietary Phytoestrogens on Hormones throughout a Human Lifespan: A Review. Nutrients. 2020; 12(8):2456. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082456
 
Lovelady CA, Bopp MJ, Colleran HL, Mackie HK, Wideman L. Effect of exercise training on loss of bone mineral density during lactation. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(10):1902-1907. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181a5a68b
 
Oboh, Isabella et al. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, Volume 46, 121 – 132 The influence of lactation and its duration on bone mineral density in pregnancy and postpartum: A systematic review with meta-analysis